Judge rules defrauded customers entitled to $1.45 billion

A federal judge has ordered ruled that people defrauded by a defunct Tacoma company via useless debt-settlement programs are entitled to $1.45 billion.

A class action filed against Noteworld LLC, which changed its name to Meracord, alleged the company conspired with debt-settlement providers to defraud consumers through trust accounts connected to the useless programs.

The company claimed to be a fiduciary, and signed up distressed borrowers for debt-settlement plans, then conspired with debt-settlement companies to loot the accounts with fees, the lawsuit alleged.

The company violated Washington law and the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the suit said..

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Paynter Law Firm filed the lawsuit in 2011 on behalf of the consumers, and Judge Benjamin Settle issued a default judgment Wednesday after Meracord stopped defending itself against the claims.

The hundreds of thousands of consumers affected likely will not get money directly from defunct Meracord under the judgment, but might get some from bond coverage the company has.